Pranab summons Cong ministers over ordinance on convicted lawmakers
Concern over a controversial ordinance that seeks to save convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification Thursday reached Rashtrapati Bhavan, with some Congress leaders expressing their reservations over it saying it could erode public faith in democracy and BJP leaders urging the president not to sign it.
New Delhi: The concern over a controversial ordinance that seeks to save convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification Thursday reached Rashtrapati Bhavan with BJP leaders urging President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign it and some Congress leaders also expressing their reservations saying it could erode public faith in democracy.
The president has called some ministers for consultations over it.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj gave President Mukherjee a memorandum detailing their party's objections to the ordinance.
Congress leaders Anil Shastri and union Minister of State for IT and Communications Milind Deora voiced their concern over the ordinance.
Mukherjee has called Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibal for consultations on the issue, said sources.
"The ordinance is illegal, immoral and unconstitutional. We urged the president not to sign it and return it to the government," Sushma Swaraj told media persons after meeting Mukherjee. She contended that the president was not bound to sign an ordinance which was unconstitutional.
The decision on the ordinance has put the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the risk of political isolation on the issue of criminalisation of politics ahead of the crucial assembly polls to five states this year and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist has opposed the ordinance while the Aam Aadmi Party has said it will file a public interest litigation on the issue.
Reflecting differences within the Congress on the issue, Shastri tweeted: "Government's ordinance negating SC (Supreme Court) order on convicted MPs/MLAs will greatly damage the poll prospects of the Congress in the coming assembly elections."
Deora also tweeted: "Legalities aside, allowing convicted MPs/MLAs to retain seats in the midst of an appeal can endanger already eroding public faith in democracy."
The BJP appears to be gearing up to raise the issue electorally in the upcoming polls with its memorandum talking about the need for probity in public life.
Sushma Swaraj said the president told the BJP leaders that he would examine their demand and then take a decision.
Answering a query, she said it was wrong to state the BJP had agreed to support the bill brought by the government to prevent convicted lawmakers from disqualification. She said the BJP had said the bill should be sent to the standing committee.
The Supreme Court had July 10 struck down a provision of the Representation of People Act that allows a convicted member of parliament or a state legislature to continue membership for a three-month period for filing an appeal to a higher court and get a stay on the conviction.
Sources said the ordinance, approved by the government Tuesday, negates the apex court order on immediate disqualification of convicted lawmakers and allows them to continue in their position if their appeal is admitted in higher courts within the same interval. However, the lawmaker cannot draw his salary or vote in the process of law making.
Sources said United Progressive Alliance government had repeatedly taken the ordinance route since 2009. The government also brought an ordinance on food security bill.
Advani said the bill was prima facie unconstitutional and twice referred to Sushma Swaraj for raising objections to the ordinance Wednesday. The party's memorandum, however, was almost a duplicate of the article released by Jaitley a few hours earlier.
The memorandum raised questions on a convicted person being a lawmaker and said people expect such a person to be in prison.
It said these were concerns based on probity, ethics and morality.
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